A swarm of circumstances caused red-ant nests to be part of my ken.
As a boy and when a boy, I stirred the nests with sticks. The nests stank grandly.
I watched the ants--two parts cinnamon, one part pepper--travel and work, hauling stupendous loads. A blue-winged butterfly shipped back to the nest looked like a sea-tossed yacht.
Concentration of so many ants is hypnotic, their subterranean culture and above-ground urbanity seem astute, perfected, and chaotic.
The last bits of creatures end up in red-ant nests. Thereby cities of ants are fueled. Red-ant nests constitute simmering mounds of ant-flesh. Lore told me that tunnels, shafts, corridors, and rooms lie under nests. Also a queen was supposed to live down there, in supreme charge, a deified center of the chaos.
I thought of my face, human, peeking out of its ken, leaning over it all, taking note, breathing, seeing, smelling, and hearing--and being viewed, in some sense, by the nest and its individual members, so many, so teeming. The nest whispered and whirred.
The red-ant nest as I recall it was a kind of machine, a collective speaking with perpetuation's voice. Why was the nest so close to our house? Why was I so glad it was so close to our house? Why was I surprised when an ant crawled up my shoe, up my sock, and onto my bare leg--and bit?
The astonishing, stirring buzz and hum of a red-ant nest is the music of a niche.
Am I grateful I saw, stirred, smelled, and heard red-ant nests? Yes, I am. I am grateful.